Being A Neuroscientist Must Be Fun

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 6, 2010

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You get to grapple with the fascinating workings of the human brain:

If you’re trying to clear your head after making a tough choice, you should wash your hands, new research suggests.

Aside from hygiene, the simple act of hand washing seems to “wipe away” the traces of decisions that leave a person feeling conflicted, said study co-author Spike W. S. Lee, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Michigan.

After making hard choices, people tend to justify their decisions to make themselves feel better, Lee explained. . . .

“You want to feel that you made the right choice, so you justify it by thinking about the positive features” of your decision, he said. This process is called postdecisional dissonance.

But when people in the study washed their hands after making such a choice, they no longer felt a subconscious need to rationalize.

“Our physical experience actually influences our mental experience,” Lee said.

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